Not to Be Taken


Not to be Taken: A Response in Six Acts



A response to Ellen Rothenberg's Exhibition Elsetime

A score structures the performance. Each act begins with a machine voice speaking aloud a fragment of text. The texts are threads in the spine of a book and form the spine of a body. The spine weaves temporalities and voices, past and present, and makes the dancing possible.

The stage is set with chairs stacked to one side; a timer on a metal folding chair; an iPad displaying title cards propped next to a timer—the kind of timer used in team-building exercises in a nondescript conference room; an iPhone and a bluetooth speaker on a record player. In each act, the iPhone plays and repeats Janis Joplin’s Me and My Bobby McGee as soundtrack to some movement involving performer and twelve plastic chairs. Old music broadcasts through new bodies.


The timer defines an abstract and seemingly arbitrary structural container for the performance. It sets a limit against which the action takes place.

I place chairs on a field. This one is on its side. This one is upright. This one is on its back. This one is face down. This one leans. This one sits next to another. This one holds another.


I pull at the spine—Simone Forti’s Handbook in Motion, twelve plastic office chairs, two metal folding chairs, a photocopy of a fragment of Elisabeth Hauptmann’s notes on Brecht. My hands wave wildly in the spaces between furniture.


I make a line with chairs. It’s an assembly line, a protest line, a parade line. I march up and down the line. I carry chairs from one end to the other. Sometimes over my head. Sometimes balanced around my neck. The chairs underfoot are unsteady. They weren’t designed to take weight concentrated in the surface area of a foot.